Realistic Costs of Carbon Capture
Coal currently provides more than half the United States’ electricity. Because burning a single ton of coal can create more than two tons of CO2, a primary contributor to climate change, a technique known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) is under development.
If CCS makes coal-generated electricity more expensive than that of other technologies, incentive to adopt it would be reduced. A Harvard study, “Realistic Costs of Carbon Capture,” is a good resource for stories on CCS. The Harvard study concludes that:
- For a first-generation facility, the cost of abatement would be $100 to $150 per ton of CO2 avoided, excluding the cost of transportation and storage.
- Carbon capture and storage would add approximately 8 to 12 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of coal-generated electricity, effectively doubling its cost.
- When carbon-capture technology is mature, costs could decline to $30 to $50 per ton of CO2 avoided, adding 2 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of coal-generated electricity.
The cost premium for generating low-carbon electricity from coal with CCS would be similar to that for generating low-carbon electricity by other means, and higher than certain renewables such as onshore wind.
Image of proposed Futuregen facility courtesy of the U. S. Department of Energy. Tags: carbon, carbon sequestration, carbon capture, coal, emissions, fossil fuels, global warming, greenhouse gases, mining, pollution.
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Harvard study titled "Realistic Costs of Carbon Capture."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Utility Shelves Ambitious Plan to Limit Carbon."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.